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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#626: Amaze Yourself with How Much You Can Fit Into 24 Hours

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 8, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 8, 2011
When I left my mid-sized consulting firm two years ago to start my own practice, I knew it meant more time on administration and marketing. However, I did not count on the amount of time required to forge a new brand, especially when the nature of consulting is undergoing (another) big shift. I am a little overwhelmed with the new research, new marketing, new services, etc. Am I making too big a deal of this?

You feel what every small firm consultant who wants to pursue, or is being pushed into, a new market is experiencing. Some felt this a year ago; others will feel it over the coming year. This disruption can be paralyzing, given all that has to be done to maintain your skills, divine future markets, and compete with other consultants also expanding their services. It varies by industry whether managers see consultants as expenses they can't afford, replacements for staff they can't afford to hire, or essential sources of expertise they can't do without. Each circumstance has its own pressures on suggesting that we need to work harder to keep up.

What you can do is to not get overwhelmed with the amount of things you could do. If you don't remember it, read A.A. Milne's poem "The Old Sailor" to get some perspective on what happens when you are so engrossed with everything you could do and don't step back and do what you need to do. In your case, consider cutting out half of your to do list (or whatever amount is needed to leave you with a solid work week). What did you cut out that you really needed to do this week?

Tip: There is a saying, "If you want a job done, give it to a busy person." This is not to suggest that you are not busy, but there is something about a full, well-managed schedule that prevents the less important tasks from even getting on your to do list. Be ruthless with new tasks - only accept jobs from yourself that have a definitive ROI for your business.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  practice management  time management  trends  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#625: When it Comes to Ethics, Life Imitates Art (and Vice Versa)

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 5, 2011
Updated: Friday, August 5, 2011
Even with the recent high profile news about management consultants ending up on the wrong side of ethics practices, it seems like the consulting profession is pretty ethical. What do clients think?

This is an interesting supposition that can't be verified or disputed conclusively. A client, when presented with a consultant of theirs that violates ethics laws or practices, is reluctant to go public with it because it taints their selection and management of that consultant. When they engage an exceptionally ethical consultant, this behavior also tends to be closely held.

The lack of fully revealed evidence makes it hard to conclude a general characteristic of the profession other than by anecdotal evidence. However, in my role as IMC USA Ethics Chair, I do get a lot of complaints about unethical consultant behavior. Unfortunately, only those consultants committed to the profession by their membership in IMC USA or being a Certified Management Consultant are subject to independent ethics adjudication. Other consultants must rely on investigation by their own firms (ironically a conflict of interest) in response to ethics complaints.

Tip: Oscar Wilde said that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." As it relates to management consulting, he was a century ahead of his time. On January 8, 2012, the Showtime television network debuts its new series "House of Lies," based on a less than flattering book about the seamy side of the management consulting profession. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the public (and of business) to this series.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  ethics  goodwill  professional association  professionalism  publicity  reputation 

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#624: Design Your Recommendations at the Right Scale

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 4, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 4, 2011
When a consultant has a new client, there is a period of time before we really understand the culture and personality of a client sponsor and the organization. What seems like an appropriate recommendation may seem to the client too radical or not impactful enough. Is it better to go big and let the client scale it back or take some other approach?

This is a great question because we tend to focus on getting the right answer and not necessarily the right size answer. Western cultures take a linear and reductionist approach to analysis. We take a big problem, decompose it into its parts and solve the components and then reassemble it into what we presume is an appropriate scale solution. Unless we have a good sense, at the outset of the analysis, a sense of at what scale the solution should be, we risk creating an intervention for the client that is over engineered or insufficient to be effective.

The answer lies in understanding the nature of the problems we are trying to solve. Each problem has its own scale, and finding it requires knowing the scale at which the recommended intervention will be most effective, not the perceived scale of the problem itself.

Consider environmental policymaking. We consider overpopulation, biodiversity loss, air pollution and limited strategic resources as complex, pervasive problems. While they may exist globally, their solution depends on the physical, institutional and cultural options available to solve them. Hence, effective climate policy is global, energy policy is national and water policy is local.

Tip: Define as early as possible the scale at which you will craft your solutions. But be careful. If you have not dealt with the kind of problem sufficiently to identify the solution space and scale prior to starting the engagement, consider whether you really understand the client condition and solutions well enough to take on the engagement ethically.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  engagement management  ethics  management theory  recommendations 

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#623: Use Data Maps to Understand Your Social Networks

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I've let the results of my social media campaign get out of control. After building large sets of networks (e.g., Facebook, BranchOut, BeKnown and LinkedIn), it has become a long list of names and contacts and not something manageable. How can I get back some sense of order without trimming the networks?

In hindsight, this was inevitable. Building a network and connecting with interesting people was fun and productive at first. However, when it is possible to have downline network contacts numbering in the millions, it is no longer a human scale, manageable network. Sure, it is still a powerful resource for automated searches but if a network is made up of a lot of people we barely know (or never met in person) then it is hard to use.

Since this is a problem not unique to you, as usual technology comes to the rescue. LinkedIn, recognizing that many people had even second tier contacts numbering tens or hundreds of thousands, came up with a network data visualization tool in LinkedIn Maps. Go to this link, log in and generate your network map. based on how interconnected your contacts are, you can label the different colors and get some insights of how to better use your vast network.

Tip: Data visualization and segmentation for greater understanding can be done with 3x5 cards or a sophisticated tool, but this is a good lesson for us all to remember. With good structure and organization data can be transformed into information. However, without an evolving understanding and structure, too much information (contacts) can also devolve into less useful data almost as easily.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  data visualization  marketing  social media 

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#622: Take a Tip from Doctors on Setting Appointments

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, August 2, 2011
I can't be the only independent professional with the problem of overly complex scheduling. I usually carry about five clients at any one time, some of which have more than one location. Juggling appointments and accommodating everyone's schedules are burning me out. How do others do this?

Consider the environment you are creating for yourself. It sounds like you are letting your clients schedule your time instead of the other way around. Mutual respect is the first casualty of appearing to be (and being) unwilling to manage your own time. I recognize that you want to serve your clients by accommodating their schedule. However, you may be surprised by how much more respect you'll get and, consequently, how much more valuable they'll consider your time if you restrict the times you are available for consultation.

Consider your experience with a doctor's office appointment. Their time is tightly scheduled because they need to see many patients each day and the uncertain length of time of each visit. Same with cable and appliance repair services. Now that I've compared you to service providers that are widely despised for poor scheduling (because of the unpredictability of their work), let me assure you that creative and structured scheduling can work for consultants because you have more control over your time.

What would happen if you established specific times for your office visits each week, other times (or days) for your group meetings, and still other times for your online meetings or webinars? For example, your onsite appointments are Tuesday and Thursday from 10am-2pm, your staff catch-up meetings by video are on Monday and Friday mornings, and your one-on-one calls with client sponsors are on Wednesday or Friday afternoons. Recognizing that there may need to be some exceptions, a predictable schedule will lower your stress and increase the recognition by your clients that your time is valuable.

Tip: There are technologies that may help you schedule your time or at least help you think about some of the issues about managing appointments if you don't think tools will help you better manage your time. One is Time Tracker (there are many others) that sets up available times for people to make appointments. The data flow into your Outlook calendar and gives legitimacy to your available (and valuable) time for appointments.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  consulting tools  practice management  your consulting practice 

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